Previously we talked about what is a Dental Assistant. Let us now look at how you can go about becoming one. Dental assistant jobs are becoming more and more in demand in the medical employment industry especially during the recent years mainly because of the boom in population, the increased demand for good dental assistants and the appeal of the job responsibilities and tasks that a typical dental assistant performs in a dental clinic or office. Dental Assistants also perform specific activities that cannot be done by simple medical assistants or aids. Dental assistants have slowly but surely become indispensable and of significant help to dentists and other dental care professionals.
Ways to Become a Dental Assistant
There are generally two approaches you can take in order to become a dental assistant. One is through on-the-job training, which was quite common especially during the past decade. Back then, dental assistants were not required to undergo formal training since all they had to do was perform tasks handed out to them by the dentists they work for. During those times a dental assistants main duties included preparing the instruments and equipment for a dental procedure, cleaning up the dental area and disposing of used materials and assisting the dentist in performing a procedure with a patient.
But over the years the scope of the dental assistant has extended to administrative and secretarial duties as well as procurement and logistics which back then were handled by dentists themselves. Given that the job now entails more rigid organization and more specific dental assistance duties, certification programs for dental assistants have now become the norm. Many schools and medical establishments provide training and certification to interested students wanting to pursue a career as a dental assistant.
Dental Assistant Certification Programs
In the United States alone, there are already around 269 dental assistant certification programs which can be evaluated up by individuals interested in the job. These programs teach the basics dental assistance work as well as administrative duties inside a dental clinic or establishment. These programs are provided by vocational schools, junior colleges and some medical institutions as well. Most dental assisting courses run between four months to a full year.
Dental assistant certification programs cover mostly the following lessons:
- Preparation, cleaning and maintenance of dental tools, equipment and clinic
- Protocol in assistance during dental work and operations
- Office administration including filing of records, organization of contacts and preparing other important paperwork
- Providing patient care before, during and after undergoing dental operations
Graduates of dental assistance education programs are awarded with a certificate which they have to show when applying for job positions in the field. Some states do not require certification while others have more stringent rules in accepting aspiring dental assistants.
Other Educational Requirements
Those who have not taken up a course in dental assistance but would like to work as a dental assistant can apply to become dental assistants through on-the-job training provided that they are knowledgeable in any of the following fields:
- Basic medical care
- Office administration and secretarial work
- General dentistry (undergraduates of the said course may qualify for the job)
The demand for dental assistants is on a continuous rise particularly in expanding health care establishments and industries. An individual working as a dental assistant position can easily look forward to make close to $33,000 each year. It also opens up more career options as they use their jobs as a stepping stone towards more advanced dental careers in the event they do aspire to become actual dentists in the near future.
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